RA: Freeport mine strike ends (interview with West Papua Media)

  • Updated December 28, 2011 07:58:41

Thousands of workers at Freeport mine in Indonesia have ended their three-month strike for better wages, after a signing a pay-rise deal with the company.

Production at Freeport‘s giant gold and copper mine in Papua has been at a standstill since workers began their industrial action. The workers are expected to return to work this week, but there are reports the Papuan police chief will charge protest organisers with sedition.

Presenter: Melanie Arnost
Editor of West Papua Media Nick Chesterfield

CHESTERFIELD: It’s seen to be a bit of a bitter sweet victory because whilst there have been ceremonies to enable peaceful resolution, the company, Freeport has given very little ground on the original demands and the Indonesian police in Papua have decided that they’re also going to charge the union leaders and the organisers with sedition.
ARNOST: What does this mean for the workers?
CHESTERFIELD: Well sedition is basically the charge under which everyone in West Papua gets charged if they raise the Morning Star flag. What it means is basically between 10 to 15 years in prison, and it’s not exactly a good faith act by the police. So there’s a lot of people who are going to be fearful. It’s designed by the police to stop anyone from taking legitimate industrial action by making out that it’s treasonous.
ARNOST: And how many workers are we talking about that look like they’ll be charged?
CHESTERFIELD: Well at the moment it’s looking at the union organisers, certainly the heads of the union and key organisers who’ve been manning the blockades and doing the education out there and doing what union organisers do on the ground during strikes. Whether or not they charge everyone, this is a question that the workers certainly want to have answered, and also one of their conditions in returning to work is there’s going to be no sanction on them for going on strike. There’s no real gains in wage justice for any of the workers there, I mean they were initially going for quite a significant pay rise, and in the end they’re getting less than seven dollars an hour for their efforts.
ARNOST: So why did they decide to end the strike?
CHESTERFIELD: At the end of the day companies like Freeport and the Freeport mine which is the most profitable mine on earth, it’s the largest gold and copper mine on earth. It doesn’t want to pay its workers, not its indigenous workers anyway. There’s an understanding simply that there was no willingness on behalf of management to even budge even a few cents. So any money is better than no money.
ARNOST: So these seven dollars, is that what they were originally being paid in the first place?
CHESTERFIELD: Look they were originally being paid about a dollar 50 to three dollars an hour. So certainly there have been a few increases but it’s far less than what they’re asking for and there’s no real guarantees of safety and security, and especially security from these ongoing attacks by unknown forces, which the police and military seem to not want to solve.
ARNOST: When do you expect the workers will return to work?
CHESTERFIELD: It could be any day but nothing is entirely guaranteed until we get the pictures from the ground really.
ARNOST: It’s said to be the longest in recent Indonesian history this strike, so do you predict something like this happening again?
CHESTERFIELD: Look certainly there’s an appetite for industrial action in Indonesia and certainly in West Papua. Certainly the Freeport Mine’s got to be separated in some way obviously from the independence struggle in West Papua, but there’s certainly issues of corporate behaviour and corporate impact on surrounding environments and surrounding social dislocation that workers have really switched on to. You can’t unlearn what you’ve gone through in a situation like that, so certainly there’s more of a willingness to take this kind of action. And they’ve certainly learnt a lot of lessons from it.


by Lococonut

via our partners at EngageMedia.org

A snippet of footage and chatters around the Freeport strike in West Papua. The Freeport workers’ union says it is a matter of simple “revenue transparency”, the international trade union says the dispute “has nothing to do with” West Papua politics, and a worker recorded in his video testimony that the walk-out was something “important” and worth keeping.

video information
produced by Lococonut
produced Nov 04, 2011

The Geneva-based International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), its Australian affiliated group Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Union, SP KEP SPSI, met in Jakarta from October 30 to November 2, 2011.

In this video, SP KEP SPSI was represented by Airan Koibur, ICEM was represented by Information and Campaign OfficerDick Blin, and Wayne McAndrew spoke for the CFMEU.

Freeport strike: Police accused of siding with Freeport. Union given one-day ultimatum

Bintang Papua, 31 October 2011
[Abridged in translation by TAPOL]Timika: The actions taken by the police in Mimika have created the impression that the police are siding with Freeport-Indonesia, said a commissioner of Komnas HAM, the National Human Rights Commission, Ridha Saleh. In an interview with Kompas, he said that the police have warned that firm measures are being planned against the strike and the blockade set up by Freeport workers if  the blockade is not lifted within two days.

‘The measures being planned by the police reinforce the impression that, along with the money being paid by Freeport to the security forces, they are siding with the company,’ he said.

Ridha said that there was nothing unconstitutional about the strike and therefore workers should not be dispersed. The police in Mimika are going too far, he said. These measures would also  damage the negotiations now under way between the two sides  which are currently proceeding well.

‘We intend to talk to the police and ask them to abandon these measures. We also intend to speak to the national chief of police and the chief of police in Papua.’

The strike which started on 15 September is intended to persuade the company to pay attention to the welfare of the workers. The increase in wages offered by the company is not acceptable, in view of  terrain in which they work and the risks involved.

Police ultimatum to the workers:

The executive of the Freeport branch of the trade union, the SPSI, have been given an ultimatum by the police in Mimika, not to spread the strike to Mile 28, Mile 27 and Gorong-Gorong. The ultimatum was contained in a letter dated 30 October, along with a request to open access  which has been blocked by strikers. The police along with other security forces have given an ultimatum of only 24 hours, starting from the moment this request is made, for the strikers to conform with the regulations in force. ‘If this does not happen, the police will take firm action in accordance with the regulations in force,’ the letter from the police says.

The SPSI was also told to co-ordinate with the strikers  and ensure that the laws in force are not violated.

According to the police, the basis for these measures is the Criminal Code, Law 9/1998 on Freedom of Expression and Law 13/2003 on Labour Relations.

The chief of police in Mimika has also said that conditions  in the vicinity of Freeport-Indonesia are becoming less and less conducive  as a result of the strike which is, according to the police, being conducted in violation of the earlier notification given by the trade union.

According to the police, a number of anarchic actions have occurred in violation of strike regulations. Moreover, the workers have started holding demonstrations  without having informed the police, blocking access to a ‘vital national asset’ and disturbing the public order. [The police ultimatum goes on  mention a long list of laws and regulations which are deemed to have been violated by the strikers.]

The police ultimatum to the SPSI has also been sent to the governor of Papua, the chairman of the Mimika DPRP, the commander of the Cenderawasih Military Command, the President-Director of Freeport and other relevant agencies.

URGENT ALERT: Indonesian police plan to break Freeport Workers Strike

From Indonesian Solidarity (Aust)

31st October 2011

Indonesian police plan to break Freeport Workers Strike.

According to Mr Albar Sabang, the Secretary of the All Indonesian Workers Union (SPSI), Freeport Indonesia Division, “four panzers, one backhoe and one bulldozer are on the way to mile 27 of the Freeport area in Mimika”. They plan to break the strike by November 1st, when the delegation of ICEM (a member of the CFMEU is part of the ICEM delegation) will meet with the Freeport unionists in Jakarta.

In a letter that was sent to SPSI, the Mimika police commander Deny Edward Siregar states that the SPSI has breached laws such as the Indonesian criminal law, and regulation 13/2003 that regulate the
workers’ conduct. In his letter the police commander says that “the strike has shifted its orientation, and become demonstrations without asking permission from the police and has blocked access to
roads that are vitally important for the national interests”. Further he states that the strikers “have moved from CP north to CP-1, Mile 27 and Gorong-Gorong”. And the strikers “have disturbed public order”. However, the Freeport Workers have followed all the right procedures in their strike while PT Freeport Indonesia has disbursed US$14 million of funds to Indonesian National Police and Military (TNI) to protect Freeport.

Gorong-Gorong is the area where Peter Ayameseba, one of the striking workers, was shot dead by the police in protests that occurred on October 10th.

The police rationale to break the strike, in addition to what the Mimika police commander has said, is that the strikers have pressured Freeport Indonesia, and gained a lot of solidarity support both in Indonesia and overseas. Freeport’s declaration this week of “force majeure” on some concentrate sales from its strike-hit Grasberg mine in Papua was another piece evidence that the strike has been effective.

Freeport Indonesia workers reportedly receive the lowest salaries among all Freeport McMoRan (FM) workers around the world, with wages ranging from US$1.50–$3.00 per hour. Meanwhile SPSI continues negotiating with Freeport Indonesia and demands to have US$7.5 to $33 per hour for workers level 1-3.

On 19th October 2011, the Indonesian military and police attacked the peaceful Papuan People’s Congress and six people were killed, more than 300 were taken into custody, the leaders accused of treason, and many others were beaten with rattan canes and batons by police and soldiers.

Freeport workers can be contacted via Yuly Parorongan as a spokeperson of the Freeport union at +6285254951253 and Frans Okoseray at +6181240492446

Indonesian Solidarity is an independent, non-profit organisation that supports human rights, social justice and democracy in Indonesia, and promotes a better understanding in Australia of these issues.

DAP chairman calls for the withdrawal of police and army from around Freeport

JUBI, 13 October 2011In connection with the shooting dead of Petrus Ayamiseba  who worked at the catering department for workers at Freeport, the Dewan Adat Papua  has declared that  it is essential to withdraw army and police troops from area around the Freeport mine.

Speaking on behalf of DAP, Dewan Adat Papua, Forkorus Yaboisembut said that the chief of the Indonesian police, the chief of police in Papua and the commnder of the XVII Cenderawasih Command should withdraw all their troopa who are currently deployed in the vicinity of the mine. He said that it was important for the police and the security forces to stop exerting pressure on the company. They should also be ordered to stop exerting pressure on the workers.

‘The security forces should stop interfering in any way with the company,’ he said. ‘The two sides involved in a dispute must find a solution together. If they are subjected to pressure, the dispute will never be solved,’ he said.

He also said that the Indonesian govrnment should urge the company to provide a clarification about its  revenues. ‘If the government can convince the company to review the wages that they  pay to the workers, the dispute can be speedily resolved,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the lawyer, Yan Christian Warinussy said that the shooting of Petrus Ayamiseba was a gross violation of human rights, and he hoped that the Papua branch of the National Human Rights Commission would speedily hold a meeting with  the chief of police in Papua, Police Inspector-General  Bigman Lukkaman Tobing to press for this shooting incident to be resolved in the human rights court. He said that if this does not happen,  the police will claim that this was nothing more than a criminal act.

He want on to say that the shooting to death was a breach of Law 39/1998 regarding safeguarding actions undertaken by the people.

Warinussy also said that  the company should halt all their provocative actions. ‘The company and the workers should sit down together to discuss the rights of the workers.’

Warinussy said that he was currently in Timika and was carrying out his own investigations and he said that he would be having a meeting with the chief of police in Mimika and with the company. The results would be conveyed to the chairman of the  Papuan branch of the National Human Rights Commission. Matius Murib.

Petrus Ayamiseba who was 36 years old died when he was struck by a burning rod of tin belonging to the police while he was taking part in a demonstration at the Gorong-Gorong Terminal.

During the incident, another person was also killed, namely  Jamil, a member of Brimob.

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